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Travel Europe. The Highs and Lows

Boom. With only five weeks left in 2012 I, like many of you, am wondering just where the year has gone. In a little while, you’ll see round up articles appear across the blogosphere and beyond trying to capture the year that’s zooming toward a close.

They’ll probably mention the US election. The violence in the Middle East. Perhaps something about James Bond turning 50 and hopefully some stunning shots of the London 2012 Olympics.

Why am I thinking about the year end already?

Because in a few days’ time I board a train on a journey that’ll take me right up to Christmas and from there it’s only a hop, skip and a paper party hat and some leftover turkey until that New Year’s Eve arrives.

Why am I thinking about the year end already?

And because I can’t quite believe that 365 days have marched past since I last boarded a train to cross Europe. Last time, it was from Istanbul to Berlin, zig-zagging and criss-crossing across the former iron curtain.

This time, I’m heading west. But more importantly, I’m heading up and down.

For me, 2012 was a year of professional highs (more about those later) and extreme personal lows (not much more about those, I’m afraid. Not everyone loves living their life online.)

Europe, or at least the EU, pulled off something of a professional triumph itself this year by, somewhat unexpectedly, winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Which means, ladies and gents, that as an EU citizen I can now add “Nobel Prize Winner” to my cv. Better yet, my Facebook profile.

But I digress.

Europe, that tiny, old, squashed and quarrelsome continent has set some pretty impressive highs in its time –  and some truly hideous lows. It also, like all the continents that don’t have a Nobel Prize, has some geography.

Yeah, baby. Highs and lows.

So as 2012 draws to a close, I will travel through the highs and lows of Europe by train. Trawling my trusty suitcase up the snowy ravages of Mont Blanc and fixing it to my oxygen cylinder as I plunge into the Caspian Sea.

Well, not exactly. I’m not getting any younger and my suitcase isn’t getting any lighter.

But I will be travelling through the highest mountain range in Europe. And I’ll end my journey in and around the Netherlands, or as the words themselves say, the lowlands.

What will be the highs? Where will I find the lows?

I’m interested to hear from you. What do you think are the highs and lows of Europe? What can I find on this trip? What will I miss but return to another day? What’s the best thing Europe has given the world?

And the worst?

Getting moving

It’s t minus 36 until I pack my bags and hit the road. And that’s it until 2013. My “to do” list is laughing at me so I’d better get up and go show it who’s boss (cue bloody and tattered image of me on the floor with a cartoon piece of paper standing over me with a sinister evil laugh.)

Enough writing joyous procrastination. I’d better get moving!


How to follow Travel Europe – Highs & Lows

Twitter – @insidetravellab using the hashtag #EUHighLow

On the blog in real time – over on this page here (cunningly called Real Time)

On Facebook – www.facebook.com/insidethetravellab

Pinterest – @insidetravellab again – but in particular the board that says Where I am Right Now

Disclosure: I’ll be travelling through Europe on assignment using a complimentary InterRail pass.

19 Responses to Travel Europe. The Highs and Lows

  1. Alberto Molero November 22, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Hey Abi!

    I didn’t know you were also going to be on a train journey this Xmas! We are going to travel from Finland through Sweden, Norway and Switzerland (Mid December to end of January). Any chance we can meet somewhere in between?


    • Abi December 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

      Hola! I hope so! Are you likely to be in Belgium or Holland over the next week or so? DM me – it would be good to catch up!

      • Alberto Molero December 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

        Hola Abi!

        We are starting the trip on Sunday, our itinerary is going to be Finland-Sweden-Norway-Sweden(again)-Germany-Switzerland.

        By the look of your map, we might cross paths in Germany and/or Switzerland (We’ll be around there along the first half of January).

        Let me know if we can meet somewhere, it would be great to share our train stories over a coffee!

  2. Alexandra Jansons November 22, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Spending the last 2 months travelling overland, 000’s of kilometres from China, across Russia, into Finland and meandering through the former iron curtain, I have certainly seen ‘the other side’ of European culture.

    My personal B.W.F. of Eastern Europe (Best, Worst & Funniest):

    B: SAUNA. An ingenious concept, it has saved my extremities from a continual state of frostbite.

    W: HOME-MADE LOCAL LIQUOR: So tasty at the time, but the morning after tells a much different story. They weren’t lying when they said it was 70 proof…

    F: 80’s & 90’s MUSIC (in the noughties). Ah, many trips down memory lane, listening to a bit of Backstreet Boys, Madonna, and Hanson over an Eastern European breakfast.


    • Abi December 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      I agree with you on the local liquor thing…but I can’t take too long in a sauna. I prefer a hot bath myself!

  3. Gayla~ November 23, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    Your journey sounds like a great way to tour Europe. What an adventure. Have a great time!
    p.s. I love that I now live in the low country (the Netherlands). A high for me is being just a few hours by train from Paris, where there’s never a dull moment. Another high is the Christmas Market. My new home, on the border with Germany, will have its first ‘German’ Weinachtsmarkt/Kerstmarkt this year. I’m looking forward to it…and to a cup of warm and spicy gluhwein :-). Cheers and Happy Travels!

    • Abi December 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      Yes, I love gluhwein/vino caldo/vin chaud. Just the smell of it makes me think of Christmas and puts me in a better mood! To be honest, I could have named this route the “gluhwein way” again because pretty much every stop so far has had its own stunning Christmas market.

  4. Kieu ~ GQ trippin November 23, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Currently in Vienna right now and a definitely HIGH are these wonderful Christmas markets. Something about the holidays in Europe, makes it extra festive and special. I hear Germany has some of the best and it looks like you’re heading there. Enjoy!

    • Abi December 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

      Oh yes, Vienna looks fantastic right before Christmas (and not too shabby I suspect during the rest of the year.) Munich and Salzburg had beautiful, twinkling markets. I have yet to explore the rest…

  5. sofie November 23, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    To stay in the spirit of making end of the year lists, 3 things I think you’ll enjoy in Europe and 3 things that might not be that great:

    Oh yeah!
    1. It’s full of history. Old buildings, great architecture, so many stories…
    2. Food! You can eat deliciously around the whole of Europe (well, maybe less in the Netherlands and Germany:p) and I recommend you do so
    3. Belgium is a small but superinteresting country and I’m glad you’ll be visiting us:-)

    1. Western Europe and Scandinavia are quite expensive
    2. I personally didn’t like Milan that much.
    3. Nice weather cannot be garanteed, ever.

    • Tiger Safari India November 23, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      I am not sure if I will have my wife accompany me to Belgium. There was a conference some years ago, here in Delhi, India and some Belgian diamond manufacturing firms were here.

      I know how I came out of that one :D

      • Sofie November 23, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

        Lol. Just stay away from Antwerp’s Diamond district then. Just to be sure you don’t get ripped off:-)

    • Abi December 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

      I like your “Doh!” list. Spot on ;-)

      • Sofie December 7, 2012 at 8:02 pm #


  6. Mark S November 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Haven’t been on the computer much since the hurricane hit New Jersey and damaged my parents house but still try and get some reading in and some writing done while trying to fix there house. I wish the world was a little more at peace since I would really enjoy going back to Egypt but the way things are who knows if I will ever feel comfortable about going back there again. But I will still enjoy going to Italy whenever I can as well as other places in Europe. Will just try and enjoy the rest of the year and read about others great vacation and give advice when I can.

    • Abi December 6, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

      Good luck with the repairs – and yes what’s happened in the US and in the Middle East at the moment is terrible. Let’s hope for better things in the future – since the only constant is that everything does change.

  7. Stephen S. November 30, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

    Have a great journey. I love traveling Europe by train. If you interested in history Europe is a magical place.

    • Abi December 6, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

      Love history, so I’m well looked after here :-) And since I grew up on an island, I’m still so impressed that you can travel from country to country by train and just walk across a border. Loving it.

  8. jakori December 11, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    I hope you have a great time travel by rail in Europe. I used to live and use the rail system in Europe often and loved it. It’s a great and inexpensive way to get around and meet new friends. Happy travels